The US military is being accused of killing at least thirty civilians in a raid on the western Iraqi town of Ramadi. The dead are believed to include women and children. Witnesses told the Reuters new agency several bodies were left lying in the street. The Los Angeles Times reports at least fifteen homes were destroyed.
Unidentified Ramadi resident: "Huge crimes happened at night. Huge crimes (targeting) people inside their shops. They only sell and buy, they are neither resistance nor terrorists. They are not from all these things. These bodies, 25 bodies committed no serious crime or guilt."
Doctors say the number of dead increased because US roadblocks made it difficult to reach the victims. The Pentagon has not commented on the attack.
Meanwhile, Iraqi officials say nearly forty people have been released from captivity at the offices of the Education Ministry in Baghdad. The mass kidnapping occurred Tuesday when gunmen stormed the building wearing commando uniforms of the interior ministry. Estimates of the number kidnapped have reached as high as one hundred and fifty.
In other Iraq news, a US soldier accused in the rape of an Iraqi teenage girl and the murder of her and her family is expected to plead guilty today. Specialist James Barker would be the first of five suspects to take public responsibility. Barker has admitted the soldiers raped the girl — Abeer Kassem Hamza al-Janabi — and then burnt her body to cover up the crime. The soldiers also herded Hamza’s mother, father, and five-year old sister into a room and shot them dead with an AK-47 rifle. Barker will not face the death penalty as part of his plea agreement.
In Israel, a Palestinian rocket fired from the Gaza Strip has killed an Israeli civilian and critically wounded another in the town of Sderot. Militants linked to both Hamas and Islamic Jihad took responsibility, calling the attack an act of revenge for Israel’s killing of eighteen civilians in Beit Hanoun last week. The attack marks the first time a Palestinian rocket has killed an Israeli since July of 2005.
In Mexico, a seven-year-old Mexican-American appeared before parliament Tuesday as part of a public campaign to prevent his mother’s deportation from the United States. The boy, Saul Arellano, is the son of Elvira Arellano. She’s taken refuge inside a Chicago church since August in an attempt to defy a government deportation order. Saul Arellano spoke after his appearance before the Mexican parliament.
Saul Arellano: "I want President Bush to stop capturing and detaining people so that my mother and other people stay together in the United States."
Mexican officials said they will try to prevent Elvira Arellano’s deportation. Saul Arellano was also accompanied by Ema Lozano of the Center Without Borders.
Ema Lozano: "There are hundreds of thousands of new voters registered to vote and they changed the congress and the senate in the last election. So we are extremely hopeful, not only for Elvira Arellano, but for the twelve million undocumented immigrants that live and work and pay taxes in the United States that they will be able to live with dignity."
In other news from Mexico, a group of protesters gathered at Wal-Mart’s headquarters and main store in Mexico City Tuesday to rally against the retail giant’s presence there. Several demonstrators wore Wal-Mart uniforms and brandished chains to symbolize what they called employee mistreatment. Protest organizer Jesusa Rodriguez: "I hope that Wal-Mart, with their absolutely criminal and illegal policies, leaves Mexico."
In South Africa, parliament has approved a bill to become the first African country to legalize gay marriage. South Africa’s cabinet approved the law this summer after a high court ruling against denying homosexuals the right to marriage.
South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula: "We do need to fight and resist all forms of discrimination and prejudice including homophobia."
The Civil Union bill awaits approval by the second house of parliament. It’s expected to come into effect by the end of November.
In media news, the English-language version of the Arabic satellite network Al-Jazeera launches today. Al-Jazeera Internernational is billed as the first global English-language news network based in the Middle East. The network has been shut down in many countries over its criticism of governments across the Middle East and has been bombed by the US in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In London this week, British bureau chief Sue Phillips was asked to respond to accusations Al Jazeera has provided a platform for al-Qaeda.
Sue Phillips: "Al Jazeera Arabic has never provided a platform for terrorists. The fact that Osama has chosen to drop off his tapes at Al Jazeera Arabic is because that is the most watched Arabic channel in that region. And indeed each time that a tape was dropped off there was an editorial board that judged the newsworthiness of those tapes and very little was ever shown of each tape and sometimes nothing was shown of those tapes and indeed there would be more footage of George Bush shown on Al Jazeera Arabic than ever shown of Osama bin Laden first of all to clarify that point."
Al-Jazeera International will be available in more than eighty million homes. But it won’t be easy to watch in the United States. No major cable or satellite system has agreed to offer it to US customers. On Monday, the cable giant Comcast said it had broken off talks to air Al Jazeera International.
Here in the United States, Democratic Senator Harry Reid was elected new Senate Majority leader on Tuesday. In an interview with the Washington Post, Reid said one of Democrats’ first priorities will be to increase the US military budget by $75 billion.
In other news, today marks a new chapter in the case of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff will report to federal prison to begin serving a nearly six year sentence on fraud charges stemming from his attempts to purchase a fleet of Florida casino ships. Abramoff is still awaiting sentencing on federal charges of bribing government officials and their staff members.
And as Democracy Now! went to air, a tsunami warning was issued in Japan following an earthquake off its northeast coast. The earthquake is believed to have registered 8.1 on the Richter scale. Officials said they expect waves as high as six and a half feet to hit Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido and the main island of Honshu.